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DVD Review

Back to Normandy


Starring: Anne Borel, Claude Hébertand and Nicole Picard
Tartan Video
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 12
Available 24 March 2008

In 1975, at the age of 24, Nicholas Philbert worked as assistant director on Rene Allio’s film Moi, Pierre Riviere. The film extensively used the local farmers as the main actors in the film. Thirty years later Philbert returned to these people to capture their reminiscences and reflect upon their pastoral way of life...

Back to Normandy is a documentary directed by Nicholas Philbert. One of the nice things about the film is that Philbert has no agenda. Certainly the arrival of the film crew and their subsequent involvement in the film, must have been a major event in the lives of many of the people who appear in the film, but Philbert does not prompt those he is filming, rather he lets them tell their stories in their own way.

For some it was indeed a major event, for others just another episode in an eventful life. Some suffered the jealousy of others, some were happy to relive their glory moment, while others, like Jacqueline, are honest enough to admit to not having seen the film since it was made - though from her memories you get the feeling that her participation in the film was not viewed with pleasure by others in the village.

Although the film takes as its starting point the villager’s involvement in the film, this is really about their lives in the intervening years; this manifesto is firmly planted with the opening shots of piglets being born. If anything the film ends up being just one more event in the unfolding story which had stretched back to the original murders depicted in the film.

This is a snapshot of a slowly evolving rural community and Philbert uses his lenses to capture both the harshness and beauty of this way of life. It is a piece that is well worth watching but like most documentaries I’m uncertain of just how many re-viewings are possible.

The disc has a number of audio options with French stereo, 5.1 or DTS, with English subtitles, though to be honest it’s just as good in stereo. There are a couple of extras, the original theatrical trailer and an impressive fifty minute interview with Philbert.


Charles Packer

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